1.Arthritis can be induced in rodents by priming T-cells to respond to a foreign antigen and then challenging with antigen intra-articularly. This may be a model of the situation in human reactive arthritis in which T-cell responses are induced by antigens from organisms which trigger reactive arthritis (e.g. Chlamydia trachomatis) and antigen finds its way to the joint, most probably within macrophages. Priming by previous exposure to antigens similar to those of the triggering organism could also play a part in pathogenesis. Genetic factors determining the nature and control of the immune response affect the severity and duration of the arthritis.
2.T-cell-dependent arthritis can be induced in rodents by immunization with an antigen known to be expressed in the joint (e.g. Type II collagen). Whether this is an important mechanism in human arthritis is still unclear, even though diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis are conventionally thought of as ‘autoimmune'. No convincing candidate autoantigen has yet been identified in rheumatoid arthritis, and recent experiments in transgenic mice indicate that arthritis can be induced by an autoimmune T-cell response which does not target an antigen confined to the joint.
3.Adjuvant arthritis is a classical T-cell-dependent animal model of human arthritis; recently arthritis has been described as a rare complication in patients receiving adjuvant (intra-vesical live BCG organisms) for bladder cancer. Increasing attention is being paid to the role of adjuvants as ‘danger signals', which allow the immune system to determine whether an antigenic challenge poses a threat. Inappropriate attachment of danger signals to self antigens may result in T-cell-mediated immune responses, which could play a part in the pathogenesis of arthritis.
4.Animal studies indicate that autoimmune/inflammatory diseases can be produced by imbalances within T-cell populations, and that certain T-cells also have the capacity to regulate inflammatory responses. Among the latter are T-cells specific for conserved epitopes within heat shock protein 60. The extent to which T-cells of this kind operate in human disease has yet to be determined.